Concerning Cockatoos and Other Pet Parrots.

Cockatoos are dangerous.

I’m here to try and convince you not to buy one. Or buy any parrot, that is.

I wish everyone could go to an avian rescue and see the inhabitants there. I wish also that everyone could see the Island Parrot Sanctuary and meet parrots who cannot live with people, through no fault of their own. And no, it’s not even (always) the fault of the owners. The problem is that humans try to make a pet out of a beautiful animal that isn’t suited to caged living. We’re fighting against the base nature of a wild animal. Not all of the IPS birds come from devastating circumstances; many have been surrendered by people who couldn’t meet their ultra-demanding needs. The IPS is filled with birds of all sizes, not just large macaws and cockatoos and the like. They have senegals, conures, and a little lutino Indian Ringneck. I think that a place like the IPS most clearly tells the story of why birds should be left to the wild, breeding should be stopped where possible, and the adoption of existing animals by understanding and educated owners encouraged.

Now, I am a dedicated, passionate bird owner who blogs with the hope of influencing someone, somewhere, that parrots are not good pets – and discouraging the breeding and buying of them. That mission might seem strange coming from someone who keeps four of them under my roof, but I hold the stance that adoption and education are the ways forward. Most parrots are terrible pets! They’re messy, noisy, destructive and demanding, often hormonal, yet I still love my flock. The truth is that it takes a special personality to work with avians. You can’t be offended when they bite you, or ignore you, choose your sibling as their favourite person, or chew something you love to bits. It’s a lifestyle change, and you have to dedicate yourself.

I’m not saying that no one should own birds. I’m saying that people need to examine the reasons why they want one, and the amount of time and work they’re willing to dedicate to it. My goal is to discourage casual buyers, and to promote adoption. The only thing that sets me apart from your average person on the street is my willingness to do anything for my flock – but I am just like most other parrot owners out there. If you decide that you can provide a good life for a bird, I encourage you to do it! But I can’t encourage buying or breeding.

When it comes to the dreaded biting, I think it’s important to note that the honeymoon period right after you bring a bird home means it’s very likely that you won’t see much bad behaviour from your pet. Or if your bird is a baby, you have until it reaches sexual maturity before the dangerous and uncontrollable behaviour emerges.

Ticking time-bombs.

Island Parrot Sanctuary 062

Just like with people, birds often act cautiously as they get to know you. So during the honeymoon stage, you probably won’t see any tantrums. It’s all too easy to judge from a few encounters that they’re like any other pet.

And this can be a dangerous mistake.

Adult cockatoos’ honeymoon phases are quite different from other birds’. Cockatoos come out fighting. Where many parrots are quite friendly in their first few weeks with you, a ‘too will bite before anything else. They are a punchy, wonderful species. They are not like other parrots.

Baby cockatoos are the sweetest, most adorable birds. You can trust them with anyone. They love to cuddle and socialise. But once sexual maturity strikes, everything will change forever. Gone is your pliant baby, replaced with a creature that is driven by instinct to mate with you – and when you can’t provide that, it will attack. These attacks commonly leave owners in need of an emergency trip to hospital. Mix cockatoos and children…

They are certainly a challenge, our parrots, and whilst they’re also a rewarding pet in many ways, they’re not a relaxing one at all. Thankfully, an out-of-control parrotlet or senegal is absolutely nothing compared to even a mildly aggressive ‘too.

Large birds are more dangerous in their hormonal moments, but small birds are affected too. The difference is that a raging cockatiel won’t kill or maim you.

Yes, some birds do adapt very well to life with humans. And others don’t.

The ones who don’t end up passed from home to home. When a bird can easily live up to 60+ years, that’s a lot of homes. Many end up in sanctuaries or rescues.

I am one of those people who chose to surrender one of my flock, although it wasn’t under quite the usual circumstances. A few weeks prior, we had adopted Bobo the Umbrella Cockatoo from someone else who already had a large flock and couldn’t take him on permanently. Before being rescued, he lived for at least two years in a greenhouse. The owner of the Sanctuary thinks that Bobo was used prior to that as a breeder bird, which would explain his completely unstable hormones. He is a large, volatile, dangerous animal who can’t live with people. He has – since we left him – take a chunk out of someone’s neck. But he has also begun to heal. I called this afternoon to check in, and received the wonderful news that Bobo has progressed towards being a bird. He’s been playing, socialising, even eating with the others in his new flock. He has stopped showing signs of aggression towards the flock-mates, and is – perhaps for the first time in his 15 years – truly happy.

It was the best decision I could have made for him.

I didn’t give him up to the IPS because I was afraid of him, although the task of caring for him safely did feel overwhelming. I was willing to carry on. But when I realised that he’d get what all birds deserve, a flock and an aviary and the best diet possible, I knew it had to be.

I’ve come to realise that that is part of good ownership: knowing when it’s best to do something for the animal. Not your sense of pride or anything else.

All birds deserve wonderful lives with committed owners. It doesn’t matter if your budgie or cockatiel only cost £10, £20, £50… They’re not lesser creatures because of a price tag.

Hormones also affect every bird, cockatoo or not. Paying a higher price doesn’t guarantee a more handleable bird, unfortunately. It seems almost the opposite. Admittedly, hormones don’t always have the same enormous impact they do on Bobo, but then again… it’s not uncommon.

The spring season is dreaded by every parrot owner. Your sweet bird turns moody and unpredictable. Bites ensue. The animal literally screams because no one is listening. It may also begin to pluck. It’s frustrated because – as its genetic programming drives it to choose a mate and make babies – it cannot fulfil this most basic instinct. It’s not a matter of pining for love, or any kind of human emotion like that. A bird’s only thought at this time is to reproduce.

This manifests itself in different ways for different individuals, but the end result is too often the same. Owners begin to seek new homes for their seemingly crazed pets. As a reference, the IPS turns away 3-4 cockatoos alone per week.

Cockatoos are dangerous, as are all large parrots. Any bird’s bite is painful, but cockatoos can and will go for your jugular. Or it might bite through your lips, destroy your nose, snip off an ear, gouge an eye, leave gashes on your arms, or scars on your legs. More likely all of the above. They are incredibly intuitive birds, and will match the energy in the room. If your house is noisy or energetic, a cockatoo can go straight from play to attack without warning. Bobo did. It was as easy as that. He would be happily walking on the floor, we’d laugh, and suddenly there was this bird ready to attack.

It is frankly terrifying.

Imagine a bird playing a game with you – fetch, say. You roll the ball, the bird brings it back, you roll again – and the next time, on the return, your ‘too attacks. Bam. It can happen that suddenly.

Or think about those hilarious videos where the cockatoo dances and sings to a song. That’s pure sex for a cockatoo. And the situation can easily escalate from that fun moment to an attack.

Worst of all, think of the infamous cockatoo cuddles – one of the main reasons people buy these birds. Cockatoo cuddles are forceful. You have no control when this enormous bird pushes itself into your lap. And guess what the cuddling actually is? The equivalent of ‘making out’ with you. Cockatoos crave these cuddles because they crave having a mate.

So when your ‘too snuggles into your lap, try not to think of it as bonding (which, in a way, it is – mate-bonding), think of it as your bird wanting to mate with you and making the first move.

Remember the pattern: sexual frustration leads to attacks.

Island Parrot Sanctuary 054

You can’t pet any parrot outside of its head/neck and feet once it’s mature, or it will begin to see you as its mate. So, once again, wanting a cuddly pet is a terrible reason to buy a bird. Frustrate the animal, get bitten. The bigger the bird, the more dangerous the bite.

And, of course, it must be said that little birds have it a bit worse. People not only underestimate them (how bad could that beak be, really?) and fail to respect them, but also look at them as disposable. Why take it to the vet when it’s £20 to replace?

Once again, that’s unfair.

Large or small, parrots are equally messy, noisy, and destructive. The bigger birds can obviously deliver bigger disruptions to your life, yet smaller birds are no less deserving of anything you have to offer.

To conclude, we can strive to domesticate them through generations of breeding for what we consider tameness or sweetness or beauty, but one of the things that I personally love about parrots (and the thing that makes them least suited as pets) is their intelligence and free-thinking capabilities. They have minds of their own. Domesticating them would eradicate this. And that’s a loss.

So if you’re considering bringing an avian into your house, please don’t do it lightly. It’s also a good idea to look into adoption, because rescues are overflowing with animals that desperately need homes. If you decide that you’re determined to get a parrot, I would highly recommend volunteering at a rescue first. It’ll give you the best picture of life with a bird.

The plight of the parrot isn’t widely known. The impact of the early knowledge of parrot care – seed diet and small, round cages, anyone? – remains.

And that is why I will continue to write.

Island Parrot Sanctuary 113

Thoughts?

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31 thoughts on “Concerning Cockatoos and Other Pet Parrots.

  1. I think you hold some extremely fair points about parrot ownership – especially when it comes to large cockatoos. I completely agree that unless you have had professional ‘too ownership-specific training, you should not bring one into your household.
    However, I see your view about people owning parrots at all as over-generalised and slightly hypocritical. Why hypocritical? Because despite admitting to owning a flock of multiple birds, you give very ambiguous reasoning as to why it is ok for you to own birds but not for prety much anybody else. Anybody can “love their birds to bits”, and it is not easy to asess yourself in terms of having a “specific personality” suited to avian ownership. I don’t see how either of those reasons give you the privilege of owning birds but nobody else should.
    Secondly, i’s like to address the over-generalisation that ALL parrots make poor pets and that once they reach adulthood they get nippy and dangerous. I have owned 2 cockatiels for years now. When one of them reached sexual maturity he would nip. He nipped for all of 3 weeks. We adressed the behavior by not flinching and ignoring the biting, every single time. The other one never even acted out and bonded with everyone in the family almost immediately. Since then, neither of my cockatiels have ever made a conscious attempt to hurt any other living being. They are extremely happy birds who love being inside their cage as much as they love being around the house and with their pet humans. Hell, they hardly even get grouchy in spring. I personally know several people who have owned a wide variety of small-medium parrot breeds who’s experiences are almost the same. Where the situation changes is with the more intelligent, larger parrots (anything ranging from african greys, to amazons, to cockatoos, to macaws). That is where I agree that keeping them for a pet is a lifestyle changing experience, and that it requires hours and hours of thought, research, learning and overall godlike patience.
    I also agree that bird ownership is in no way similar to rearing any other pet, however parrots can be incredible companions if you have the patience and the empathy, the understanding and the dedication for it. I wouldn’t exclude them from the world of pet ownership just because they are relatively new – dogs started off as wolves after all! I also agree that if you do want a bird, work at a sanctuary first. Also whenever possible you should try to adopt from a rescue as opposed to buying them from pet stores or breeders. Please let me know your thoughts on all of this.

    • Good points, I’m glad you wrote! I re-read, and think I was indeed ambiguous. I’ve changed it up a bit, because what I intended to convey was *not* that I am the only one qualified to own birds. Instead, I want to sway the minds of casual buyers through this post – and, as you said, promote adoption. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t encourage the literal purchase of these animals, but because there are many already-existing avians who need homes, I will always promote re-homing. I was unfortunately one of THOSE people who innocently bought a bird thinking it would be straightforward. The research came belatedly, and I was soon enveloped in the parrot world. Because I am an animal-lover in general, I didn’t give up on our bird even when she turned out to be neurotic – damaged, if you will. People around me encouraged us to re-home her, but my boyfriend and I stuck with it, so to speak, and eventually I decided to start this blog to help inform and educate any other first-time buyers.

      Hmm, I have to point out in my defence that did say *most* parrots are terrible pets. It is a generalisation, because each bird is case-specific. I do it to show people what they might potentially receive, the side that pet shops (and a lot of sites across the internet) don’t tell you about.

      As an example of why, Mavi, our Sennie, was the sweetest bird with his previous owners. He was THE bird that they trusted with anyone. When he came to us, he took an instant dislike to my boyfriend. Now he is the bird who is least trusted with other people because he bites. We’re working on this, and it’s slow progress.

      The IPS is full of birds of all sizes (which I added into a bit of info on in the post) who suffer from the same issues. Hormones are kinda a central theme. Admittedly, there are many individual parrots like yours who don’t suffer badly (lucky, haha!), but still more do. It’s typical of ‘tiels to be advertised as quiet, gentle children’s pets, yet be surrendered when they reach maturity. Personally, all of my own flock suffer from terrible hormones: biting, screaming, etc. We do ignore this, because that’s the only thing TO do… Well, besides additional training. Mishka, our cockatiel, is the WORST. Eesh, she can do a number with that little beak, and she is an excellent flier. She has issues anyway from her pet shop background (which do exacerbate the issue), but she is a mess! Your ‘tiels are more the (very happy!) anomaly from the stories I’ve heard from rescues and other owners. I have to admit, I’m incredibly jealous, haha, because right now the hormones have just subsided… mostly… and it’s been a rough spring for them.

      I wholeheartedly agree that they can be rewarding pets for owners who go into it with the right mindset and a vast amount of patience (Godlike about describes it!). That’s my goal with this blog – to promote that mindset, educate those I can, and discourage anyone who’s in it for pretty feathers or a ‘cage ornament.’

      I don’t know quite why, but I’ve personally never liked the wolf-to-dog evolution argument for domesticating parrots. I guess there’s two parts to it – the here and now, which means a lot of suffering for too many parrots (who exist today as the domesticating process begins). And the future: domesticated parrots who lose their vivid minds and free choice, and really are just cage ornaments.

      Thankfully, there are people like you and many of the other bloggers here on WordPress, and the rest of the world, who care about their birds and put in the research and time they require!

      Thanks for writing!

    • I too have a lovely happy bird although in the medium parrot range. My male Eclectus loves his very large cage and lives being out with his “family” us ! He is great company and only sometimes displays “mating behaviour” which we are keen not to encourage for his sanity. His cage is in a busy family area and there are fairly members in and out all day. He has cage out time every day but not a specific regular times so as to not have too much a of a routine. In fact his only regular daily routine is breakfast and bedtime ! He has never “plucked” himself thankfully. He did escape when only a year old and very luckily we got him back. He was ill for a year with aspergillosis very successfully treated by a wonderful vet, John Chitty, who saved his life( expensive but worth every penny!) . We all love him to bits and wonderfully he loves all of us! I guess remembering he is like a toddler with teenage tendancies helps with understanding his behaviour! 😉😁

    • I think birds in general can be the most amazing companions and pets. I think they enrich our lives and we are giving them an opportunity to adapt to life with us so that when their habitat finally disappears we won’t lose them from the planet forever. When I say birds, I include the tiniest little finch and the largest ostriches and everything in between. This article was about cockatoos and on that note, they are my favorites. I don’t love them for their cuddliness, I love them for their intelligence, their personality, their sense of who they are and how they work at controlling their world. You don’t overpower cockatoos, you work with them as partners to mesh your 2 worlds so that your stuff doesn’t get destroyed but he knows that if you decide to tear it up he does have right of first refusal on it. Your part of the bargain is to be sure he has everything he needs and give him the respect he deserves.

      Rescues – pet shops – breeders: A lot to be said here.
      Babies vs Adults
      Many people are just not suited to having a baby as a first bird. A well socialized adult will help them to learn everything they need to know. Some people really want a baby, they should have that choice. Either way they need to have someone that they trust that they can talk to about behaviors that are developing so they know what to do. Bad behavior is always easier to prevent than it is to fix.
      Breeders:
      Many breeders don’t feel qualified to help you with a pet bird, that’s not their focus. They know a lot about health, nutrition, behaviors in the wild, natural behaviors between pairs, handfeeding, etc. But they have no idea why your bird bites you now. If you took that biting bird to the breeder there is a good chance that the breeder would not be bitten. They have good body language, they aren’t afraid of being bitten, but their bird handling skills are very good. They don’t necessarily know how to transfer that knowledge to you because a lot of it is just natural and stems from a genuine understanding of birds.
      Pet Shops:
      Consequently, many breeders prefer to sell to a retail store and it is the retail store’s job to screen the buyer, find out what they need to know in order to be great bird people, and help them to get that information and get the right bird for them. Some stores are better at that than others. Generally, Mom & Pop bird stores are the best at this. I could be biased since I am mom in such a store and I have many friends that have such stores. However, I stand by that assessment.

      Whether you choose a store or a breeder Here is a factoid about the money motive. Neither of these are lucrative businesses. They both require a lot of investment to start, a long wait to start getting a return on your money and more hours than most businesses. If you invest that time and that money in any other business you will make more money. Why do people do it? They do it because they love the birds. With both, the good ones get better and the bad ones go away.

      Rescues:
      They all have good intentions.
      Some have good financial backing and are able to do things well. They have good behavior knowledge and they can help the birds to learn what they need to know and help the new owners to learn what they need to know. They understand that if they want to continue to help the most birds possible they need to have a business like approach and they need to have a plan in place when something happens to the founder.

      Some just see a need and they have big hearts and they want to help. Unfortunately, many have not learned a lot about behaviors, nutrition, or health. They get their info from the internet instead of from experts on the subjects. They are often/usually underfunded and constantly need money for cages, vet care, toys, etc. They feel that others are not as devoted and they are afraid to let people adopt the birds. They find a lot of reasons to refuse adoptions, they can eliminate almost everyone. In the long run they end up giving substandard care because they don’t realize that it takes more than love and compassion.

      Of course that’s 2 extremes and most fall somewhere in the middle and have characteristics of both. The good ones get better and the bad ones eventually go away just like pet stores and breeders.

      Just some thoughts from someone that has worn a lot of hats in the bird world.

  2. I have worked as a wild bird rehabilitation spending money to treat birds that no one respects. After coming home one day my pet budge ate something toxic due to my own oversight. It was 10pm on a Saturday and I drove an hour + to take him to the only emergency clinic on this side of the state. The pumped his crop. It cost a bit but that didn’t matter to me because his life is precious and can’t be replaced. The next day someone said to me, “you could have just got a new one for like $20”. That kind of thinking kills me. Thank you for writing this.

    • And thanks for reading! I have had the ‘just replace it,’ comment too, and what bugs me most is that I can never explain to someone who says that what my bird means to me. I would do the same for any of my flock, though I hope I never have to.

    • I honestly think that pet parrots should cost more – at least 50 dollars for a budgie, if not more. Just to kind of make people aware of their real value. The next time someone tells you to “just replace it”, ask them how they would feel if their child was sick and somebody told them to just have another one, and that it’s cool to let this one die. Pet ownership goes belong just ‘owning’ and animal… it’s such a dynamic, close bond. That cannot be replaced.

  3. I rescued my Athena (female Umbrella Cockatoo) from my neighbor who kept her in a garage, covered with heavy blankets, dirty drinking water and never clean dishes. My husband and I bought her only to save her from that miserable life. My husband was the only one she trusted, he passed over four years ago after a long illness. it took me almost two years to earn her trust. I can hold her, but I do know she can be very dangerous. I love her so much and she will probably outlive me. I was diagnosed with metastatic stage four breast cancer two years ago. I work full time and am receiving treatment. The type of cancer I have is not curable but if treatments can prolong my life and I can have a good quality of life this is the best I can hope for. I have a new partner in my life for about two and a half years. Athena does not like her and screams a lot at times. I am in the middle because it is hard for me and sometimes I have thought about finding her a new home. But I want the best for her, I know I would miss her but if she is happy, that is all that matters. The places near my city adopt birds but they also adopt them out to other homes. I don’t want that because she might be mistreated by other people who don’t understand Cockatoos. What I have learned about Cockatoos is what I have read, if I notice that she is aggressive, I will refrain from holding her. She thinks that I am her mate and is very jealous of anyone that comes in the house. I hate to think of what would happen to her when my life is over. I believe she is about 22 years old. Can you give me the name of an aviary where she will be safe and happy for the rest of her life in Southern California? Thanks for all the information about Cockatoos, I always knew how dangerous she could be, I just never wanted to admit it to myself. I hope to hear from you, thanks! Pat

    • Hi, Pat,

      I’m truly sorry to hear about your situation. I’m glad you wrote, though, because maybe I can put your mind at ease about rescues that re-home. If it were just an average, inexperienced guy off the street re-homing your girl, she might well end up with another unwitting owner. But if you choose to locate an avian rescue, they will make sure she gets the best home possible for her. I wish I could recommend somewhere more permanent for her, but the problem with forever-home rescues is that they are nearly all bursting with birds in need, and it can be difficult to find one period, let alone one with space. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the west coast, either. I do know of Phoenix Landing Rescue on the east coast… (They do re-home.) Perhaps you could contact them with questions? It’s more than possible that they would be able to put you in contact with someone nearer to you, if not help guide you in whatever decision you choose to make.

      If you do decide that re-homing Athena is best for her, you can put your own mind at ease by selecting a rescue that you like. You can ask them any questions (e.g. can you stay in contact with her new owner, will they update you on her progress, will she be re-homed to someone with experience, what’s the adoption process like, etc.), research them and read their reviews, and tour their facilities if they have any. I know that the rescues I’ve been in contact with here in Scotland all require potential ‘too owners to have prior experience, and their interview processes are very in-depth. Plus there are home-checks throughout the application – and even after the actual adoption. Rescues have the best interest of the animals at heart.

      I know from giving up Bobo that it can be difficult in so many ways to re-home a pet bird, but we do these kinds of things because we do love them, and as you said, it doesn’t matter so long as she’s happy. It sounds like Athena is a very lucky bird to have you!

      Good luck, and all the best! Let me know if you think of any other questions that I might help with.

    • I know this post is over 3 years old but if you are still looking for a rescue in So. Cal. please contact me at steveb350 at yahoo dot com. There’s quite a few around here depending what part of the state you are in. I did rescues for decades but not as much anymore (I just have one CAG I rescued earlier this year).

    • I am sorry to hear about your loss and your health. Athena is so lucky to have you because you are putting her needs first. There are behavior consultants that can help you with your cockatoo. Most of the problems detailed here are simply learned behaviors that aren’t working well. They generally start as a natural behavior that a person misinterprets and reinforces. My advice is to find someone that has some behavior credentials and talk to them about how they will help Athena and make sure that she is ok in the future. None of us can guarantee future security and happiness, but we can help our birds to learn good social skills and good behaviors that make them welcome in other homes and give them the opportunity to have a good life. 22 is not too old to learn, and when she changes homes that will also change some behaviors and give them an opportunity to get what she wants without biting. Good luck to you and Athena

  4. Pingback: What Parrot for a Beginner? | Students with Birds

  5. I’m Australian, and I get to see many ‘too’s- from the big black ones to sulfer cresteds and galah’s in their natural habitats- and with the exception of the smaller ‘too’s- they are not pets. It’s much the same mindset of keeping a primate- both, when needs aren’t met, are dangerous to people.
    Cockatoo is the only animal that Steve Irwin was afraid of (I was quite young when I asked I’m on a visit to Australia zoo- and that answer stuck with me).
    They are a beautiful creature but need far more time, energy and room then most people realise.

    In saying that- my family had a sulfer crested too who lived, well, not with us but in a specially enclosed shaded (for want of a better word) garden. He bonded with a female wild ‘too, but had been injured when young (the story had it was a German couple found him injured after a dog attack in the 40’s or 50’s. We had him in our greenhouse (Australian greenhouse- in this case a large enclosure, shaded, but fully enclosed in aviary wire) from the late 70’s till the late 80’s. He didn’t like us kids (which is common- if he was out he would chase us- we had a large steel crate for when we had to go in there and mum would yell out to him to ‘go to your bed’). Because he had bonded (and the house was owned by the family) we left him with his mate. We found out he died sometime in the late 90’s. His actual age was unknown.

    I think he was a special case. I mean, we fed him, but he wasn’t really a pet- he was a wild animal that we lived close to.

    I am one of the first people who will admit however that 99% of people who get a ‘too as a pet are in no way ready for them.

  6. I frequent /r/parrots, and I send this article to anyone who mentions that they’re thinking of getting a cockatoo.

  7. Very well written! As an incredibly well behaved male Eclectus I always point out the worst aspects of bird ownership first whenever a visitor says “how beautiful ! I’d love to have a parrot , what’s it like? ” We definitely are very lucky with him but maybe that’s because he shares in family life and is well fed with a good routine? Having “raised” 4 human children I’m not under any delusions! Lol! Thanks for a great article to share and educate with. ☺❤

  8. Reblogged this on Kanundra's Blog and commented:
    Excellent blog. birds aren’t pets. They’re just that, a bird. They are instinctual and dangerous. Even the small once, they’re just not domesticated. Yes, I have Bobby. No, he was not a choice. I just hope I can help make him a comfortable life, one he can enjoy, without wanting to be my mate.

  9. Very well and fairly written. My Mother had an African Grey parrot for a number of years, with no cats or dogs, and a household of three adults and myself, staring when I was about fourteen. When I was in my late thirties, she, being widowed, married again and relocated to Holland, with said parrot. I have cats and dogs, and am acompanion animal behaviourist and trainer. I told her from my early association with Joe, that while I like birds, I have owned budgies, I was not prepared to inherit him. As a result she stated in her will that upon her death he was to be euthanised and cremated with her, which Holland allowed. It was the best thing for him, as I would not have been able to provide the correct and optimal care for him.

  10. Firstly, thank you for writing which has only just now come to my attention some 3 years later which is sad. I’d like to add some tidbits/food for thought.

    As a student with birds, learning is always happening, it would be hoped. Philosophy is in dynamic flux and what was once considered something that is right to do at the time changes to being not so right and vice versa. For any article about parrots that comes out, always keep one thing in mind–parrots are far more dynamic than we currently know and far more adaptive.

    No two parrots are ever the same, even in the same species. In the study of behavior, Applied Behavior Analysis, the study is of one. Generalizing into statements creates fallacies that are not wholly, inherently true. “Don’t touch a parrot beyond the head” or “they attack you” or “they are wild” and even “they are domesticated”. They are/do all of these things and more. The why is the harder one to figure out.

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. In other words, people think on a totally different scale than parrots do. We think they are feeling X, Y or Z when they are not at all. I never know what a fellow human is thinking–I can only guess, right? It is wholly unfair to suggest that all parrots are happier with other parrots in sanctuaries. To suggest no parrots are worth being owned unless they are adopted, not bought. Where did the adoption agency get them from? Tell me of a good adoption agency that works in every state and is certified. The answer is very few or none when it comes to being certified by a governing body unlike dogs or cats.

    We need to be far more united in educating ourselves continuously. For example, when touching any person, is that contact a form of intimacy? Then, you take touching to an animal who uses any form of touch as intimacy and think that petting on the head is not sexual when petting on the rest of the body is? Consider further investigation into this. ANY contact from person to person, as in a touch, is a permission-based contact and often alludes to some form of intimacy by the contactee. Does not lead to sex, certainly, not all touching does, but we still have to let down a personal amount of guard to trust the touch coming to us.

    Touching to a parrot is intimate and needs trust for it to happen. We must be able to form enough trust to touch our birds and not have it be limited to touching just their head. Why? What happens if it breaks its foot? Wing? Mouth? Receives a wound? Must be medicated? Denying touch is ridiculous and soon science will show that any touching anywhere can lead to sexual behavior in birds. Does that mean we cannot touch them? I think not. I think we have failed the parrot/human relationship by not teaching people what touch means to a parrot. To not teach a parrot how to be an independent adult that knows what parrots do vs. a co-dependent Bappy of a bird.

    Parrots can and have made wonderful pets for generations now. Over 1500 years. The parrots living with us are not wild, I’m sorry. I’ve observed wild parrots. They are not wild. Given the science of ethology and observing wild behavior, animals are bound to the laws of conservation of energy. Parrots, like us, enjoy convenience and employ it as often as they can. As soon as they can reduce need for flying, we see reduced flying. To the point there is even a species of parrot that evolved not to fly at all.

    So, does a parrot need to fly? Yes. Its designed to do it, it’s best for it. Does it want to fly? Not so much. It’s main function and design is to climb in trees better than monkeys. Their better design is for flock and family dynamic which involves far more than actual mating behavior with sexual conduct being a primary form of contact no different than us saying HI to each other.

    So, when it comes to parrots, do not close the door on pets or ownership because when we do, it will be the death of advocates like you and me who care deeply about parrots and people living on the planet together harmoniously.

    • That age varies from species to species and between individuals. First, define mature.
      Age that toos start looking for mates and exhibiting hormonal behaviors – about 3yrs to 7 yrs depending on the species and the environment.
      Age that toos lay eggs or are able to reproduce – about 3years to 8 years & some never lay eggs and never reproduce.
      Age that toos are likely to reproduce and do a good job because they are mature. 9 yrs to 20 yrs. Again, depending on species and environment.
      So if your bird is a single bird and you take steps to not encourage hormones, you will see some from time to time, but not a lot and not often, starting usually around 5. By the time they are 15 years old, that all settles into a cycle that they are comfortable with. They may feel cranky for a day or 2 sometimes, but it doesn’t mean they have to rage and bite and be crazy. Hormones and cockatoos is not a subject for a short answer, there are too many variables. I hope this helps a little.

  11. This is great. I don’t think you are hypocritical at all. It is horrific what pain is inflicted on ‘pet’ birds by humans, and it should stop. So great to read something intelligent, thanks!

  12. We have a male U2 that we purchased from a person that bought him in order to “flip” him. Altho we had a Gala at the time, we had never had a large Too. If I had read your post prior to getting him, ( excellent post!) we would not have gotten him. It would have saved me 5 years of terrible bites (to the bone, through the lips, ears and nose. And can’t forget the half moon scar above the right eye! He had been abused before we got him so that didn’t help at all! Now we have a wonderful companion that is as normal as a large Too can be, and we are very thankful and happy. That being said, we could NEVER trust him with visitors or children. We still have to be aware of breeding season and some types of music and always will. Your post was/is very informative and spot on! I hope that it will serve to make prospective parronts aware of the needs and dangers associated with large birds. Keep up the good fight.

  13. I am a volunteer for a companion bird rescue, and I have to agree that when it comes to owning OR fostering a U2, training is a must. Which my hubby and I didn’t get. Oh, it says on their adoption photos of the birds that one should not adopt a Cockatoo, unless they’ve had experience with one. But in our case, a frantic email came out from the rescue telling the volunteer group that an owner was going to euthanize his Cockatoo because she wasn’t fitting into hiding Ned work schedule. Fortunately, he had just taken her to the local (and fantastic) avian vet office locally to put her down, and they refused. Instead they encouraged him to surrender her to the local rescue and he agreed, with the caveat that she had to go soon or he would come back. No one responded to that email, until I did. And the rescue was so happy I would save her and be her foster until a forever home was found. Training? Nope. Advice before picking her up? Nope.
    So we go and pick up this beautiful 10 year old Cockatoo. When we got there, her cage was in a huge office, with very little light coming in. She wss in a big cage with a few toys, sitting on s branch staring st us as we came closer. But she didn”t move until he opened the cage and brought her out, and she came out cautiously. I thought she was perfect. They had trained her to fly to them, and she was calm and quite the whole time. She stepped up to me, and I could scratch her head, and she did the same for my hubby. But it felt like she was just making the moves. There was no animation in her, like she was drugged (she wasn’t). They gave us a little information about her, what she ate, her treats and she was trained to poop in her cage.
    Well, we took her not knowing what to expect, but we’d fostered a couple of Macaws and assumed (incorrectly), that she’d be the same. That certainly wasn’t true. She bonded to both of us, but I handled her more. After awhile, she got used to her new digs, and would come sit with us. Then on days I worked from home, she’d sit contendly on her cage, and without warning, she jump in my nack and bite me. This went on for some time and I thought she was just getting used to me. No one told us alot about hormones and signs to watch for. Then the yelling began when ahe was in her cage. Non. Stop. And she destroyed our floorboards, headboard, clothing, papers, books, anything she could dig her beak into. She would go after my hubby for no reason we could think of, and at times she drew blood. I finally took her to our avian doc, who looked at me, looked at her then at me again. He said he’d been Nicky’s vet since shd was a baby and had a whole history on her that the owner didn’t choose to tell us. She mutiliated her feet, what??? Instead of plucking she chose to pull skin off her feet and legs until they bled. So we tried medication and that didn’t work. Next came a collar, then both. She stopped mutilating her feet because she couldn’t get to them. As soon so we tried to remove the collar she started up again.
    To make this long story short, we ended up adopting her. Unfortunately after being with us for 3 years, she got a horrible infection from a prolapse and we lost her. The docs had no clue this infection was in her, and while she was being treated for the prolapse she died. I won’t go into the heartbreak and guilt I felt.
    We all learned together. Was it rough? At times, yes for all of us. Do I wish someone had given me more information on their personalities and care? Definitely. I don’t think I will ever have another Cockatoo. Nicky was my one and only. So yes, anyone considering a bird needs to read up and be well informed! Thanks for reading.

  14. Awesome article. What you explain in this article is what me, and my husband went through with our recued umbrella cockatoo te years ago. The bird, which has gone through many family, was nut when we got her. She was loud, destructive, in fact she was all you do not want in a bird. We kept her loose in the house. We had a huge house at the time and we arrange her a place of her own. She hated to have visitors in the house. She was dangerous even to the dog. It took us 2 years to calm her down. She died of health problems 8 years after we bought her. What you write in this article is the reason why, ten years after our too death we did not get another bird. Leave them in the wild, they do not tolerated the cage life. They are not toys. They have lots of feeling just like us humans. Pet shops should not have the right to sell these birds or any other king of other type of pets. You want a good companion get a dog. Sure we loved out too, and she gave us beautiful years. But she was a lot of work and I cook for her. Her story before we had her broke my heart. No, I will not get another one.

  15. Thank you. I wish more laws concerning caged birds would come into place. Eg a licence and certain minimum cage requirements and a total ban of cutting flight feathers or handraising chicks. Unfortunately many so called parrotlovers dont want to hear the truth.

  16. I own a 7 year old female cockatoo…I am so tired of hearing how horrible they are . Yes everyone should educate themselves on how to handle and feed their nutritional needs. They are not a pet that should be taken on lightly. Why not educate people on what to expect and how to handle them ,so there will be more understanding home for them to go to. For every horror story you have there is just as many happy ones that no one searches out. I have friends on a Australia sight that have had cockatoo their whole life. All they would have to do is open their back door and let them go…yet they hold on to these beloved ,so called dangerous,pet. I agree some people shouldn’t even own a dog. But no one can do anything about those people. Yes my too has bitten me…but so has my poodle. Anything with a face will bite you..I wonder how much harm to the captive too world this is doing. Know you probably only publish people that agree with you …but sorry can’t do that.

  17. Hi, I work in a zoo & am rescuing 2 of the cockatoos, a sulphur crested & ducorps. I absolutely adore them but I’m sure you understand that I am a bit concerned as I want them to be as content as possible. I appreciate you are trying to put people off having them but I have bonded with them both in work & cannot bear to think of them being sent somewhere else. I work 6 days on, 2 days off but when I’m home I’m complete dedicated to trying to fulfil their needs. Please can someone give me advice on husbandry, cages, best way to enrich their lives within a working home. Thank you in advance, Kathy

  18. Kim do you work or out a lot of the day?I could really do with some encouragement & advice please on caring for 2 rescue cockatoos. Kind regards, Kathy

  19. Thank you for this very useful information. I read this before I had my baby Captain the alba umbrella delivered to me. I met the breeder a year before and spent time with her many birds, she would not consider selling me a bird before this and also viewed my housing for the bird! We still talk every month and I update her constantly. Her words to me were “if you can handle a violent screaming two year old for the rest of your life, a cockatoo is the right bird for you. How true this is! Her advise to me was not to hug and handle the bird like a pet because after a few years this will become sexual arousal especially for male cockatoos, always leave cage open for them to roam during the day and never put your hands in the cage no matter how many years you have had the bird it is an invasion of their privacy. Also to always allow the bird to come to you for interaction but always talk to them. How sound is this advise would you say?

    Again, great article, I show it to everyone that meets captain and says they want a cockatoo and it has changed their minds.
    Just so you know, because of your article I also plan to learn a lot more about these birds and maybe in a few years make the most of my garden and build an aviary to house about 8 rescue birds with the help of the lady that sold me Captain!
    Kind Regards from England, Dee.

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